Defense Spending Cuts 2013: Expect Delays, Closures At National Parks

 @LauraMatt
on February 22 2013 11:34 AM
  • Glacier National Park
    Hiker paradises like Glacier National Park could possibly delay the opening of Going-to-the-Sun Road by about two weeks. Reuters
  • Yosemite Valley
    Yosemite National Park will delay the opening of some roads because of the budget cuts imposed by the 2013 sequester beginning March 1. Reuters
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Families intending to camp out or tourists looking to sightsee could see some snags, as the March 1 sequester that will result in across-the-board spending cuts to federal programs will force the U.S. National Park Service to scale back staff. That will happen just as the end of winter brings an uptick in tourism, with visitors facing reduced hours of operation and limited access to some of the most popular attractions across America.

A policy memo obtained by the Washington Post on Thursday stated the 398 parks are still determining the full impact of the budget cuts but that there will be delays and closures to successfully implement the 5 percent funding reduction.

Here is how some of the various attractions will be affected:

- Cape Cod National Seashore will close a visitor center, which will affect 260,000 people.

- Great Smoky Mountains National Park will shutter five remote campgrounds and picnic areas. This is expected to affect 54,000 visitors.

- At Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park, road openings could be delayed for weeks if snow removal and maintenance is affected because of manpower cuts due to furloughs.

- Hiker paradises like Glacier National Park could possibly delay the opening of Going-to-the-Sun Road by about two weeks. It is the only road providing access to the entire park, according to the memo, which stated that previous closures resulted in $1 million in lost revenue daily.

- Should the almost 500-mile long Blue Ridge Parkway be forced to cut 21 seasonal rangers, more than 580,000 visitors will be affected. Seven, or about 50 percent, of the visitor contact stations will be closed, meaning there will be some 80 miles between each open facility, reducing contact with park personnel.

- When there are fewer staff to conduct resource management, there will be fewer trash pickups and less focus on food storage violations. This will, in turn, affect visitors’ safety, according to the memo. In parks like Yosemite, the progress to reduce the number of bear incidents could be hindered.

The 2013 automatic spending cuts are expected to slash $85 billion from the budgets for defense and nondefense programs.

Read the full memo at the Washington Post.

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